CoucheTard disappointed at response to Statoil retail takeover offer extends deadline

MONTREAL — Canada’s largest operator of convenience stores is disappointed by the response it has received to a proposed expansion into northern Europe.Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. says minority shareholders of Statoil Fuel & Retail (SFR) have been slow to tender their stock to its friendly takeover offer.The US$2.68-billion offer has the support of Statoil ASA, the oil company that owns 54% of the Scandinavian convenience store operator. But Couche-Tard requires acceptance by 90% of Statoil Fuel’s shareholders.It says that due to disappointing response from minority shareholders, the deadline for acceptance has been extended to May 29.The Montreal-area company says the offer is fair and that there is no other potential buyer showing interest in Statoil Fuel & Retail.Last week, a Norwegian analyst said the Canadian convenience store operator will have to hike its current bid to win the Statoil operations.“We believe that Couche-Tard will be forced to increase its offer on Statoil Fuel and Retail to achieve the 90% threshold on the back of rising investor interest,” Pareto Securities analyst Eirik Vegem Dahle said in a 48-page research report published May 14. “[Couche] management is known for being disciplined but we find it unlikely that it will walk away from the deal, even if it has to pay up another five kroner (85¢) per share.”Couche-Tard’s April 18 offer surprised the market. The friendly deal with SFR gives the Quebec company SFR’s 2,300 convenience stores and fuel stations across Scandinavia and the Baltics and adds half a billion dollars in EBITDA. Its initial offer of 53 kroner ($8.97) per share was adjusted to 51.2 kroner to account for SFR’s dividend.SFR shares were trading at 51 kroner each Tuesday.Couche-Tard owns the Couche-Tard and Mac’s stores in Canada and the Circle K stores in the United States.With files from Financial Post

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